People with high blood sugar levels are slow to heal. What would be a foot blister for most people could lead to an ulcer for a diabetic that, if not treated aggressively, can lead to life-threatening secondary infections and, ultimately, to amputations.

San Antonio-based MR3 Health has developed an Internet of Things (IoT)-connected foot sensor to help patients monitor the health of their feet daily to prevent foot ulcers.

Roslyn McClendon, 70, is a San Antonio resident who is pre-diabetic. She has already developed one foot ulcer that required wound care for almost a year in order to heal. Her doctor placed her in MR3 Health’s trial of their new foot-monitoring service.

Every morning, McClendon uses an app on her cellphone that guides her where to place the sensor on different parts of her feet. The sensor takes temperature readings that are uploaded wirelessly into her personalized patient database on the company’s cloud-based server. Over time, the sensor tracks when and where minute temperature changes occur on McClendon’s feet.

“The sensor shows when the temperature varies from what is considered normal for that patient,” said Robert Burkholder, senior vice president at MR3 Health. “The difference can be between the two feet or it could be temperature changes that vary from day to day. The sensor tracks changes in six different spots on each foot, or 12 temperature readings daily.”

If there is a change, Burkholder or another MR3Health representative will contact McClendon immediately to ask if she has done anything different lately to account for the change in temperature reading. Prolonged walking on hot asphalt or wearing new shoes that might have caused a sore spot could be the reason behind a temporary change in foot temperature.

Roslyn McClendon demonstrates how to use the app for MR3 Health's diabetic foot sensor.
Roslyn McClendon demonstrates how to use the app for MR3 Health’s diabetic foot sensor. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“The first intervention is usually a lifestyle change,” Burkholder said. “Breaking in a new pair of diabetic shoes can trigger a rise in foot temperature, because it’s the shear forces that cause the buildup in surface temperature [that could lead to a foot blister]. But if it continues to be elevated, we escalate it and alert her healthcare provider.”

Uncontrolled high blood sugar can damage the body on a cellular level, often causing diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage with loss of sensation in the sole of the foot. Because patients are often unaware of developing inflammation, they develop undetected pressure ulcers on their feet. In the U.S. alone, about 80% of lower-limb amputations are due to a diabetic foot ulcer.

The American Diabetes Association reports that about 700,000 diabetics in the U.S. will experience a foot ulcer annually, with approximately 73,000 of those undergoing a lower extremity amputation. With the life expectancy of a diabetic amputee estimated at less than five years, monitoring and early detection are essential to reducing these numbers.

Established in 2015, MR3 is a home health monitoring company headquartered in the Callaghan Towers building near the medical center area. Founder and President Stan Marett has 40 years of experience in the healthcare industry, particularly in healthcare technology as a former hospital chief information officer.

Marett saw how rising healthcare costs are driving the need for low-cost, home-based medical monitoring services. Remote patient monitoring, such as what MR3 Health’s diabetic foot sensor provides, uses digital technologies to collect medical and other health data from individuals in one location and electronically transmit that information securely to healthcare providers in a different location for assessment and recommendations.

MR3 Health’s preventive monitoring technologies aim to help patients and insurers keep better track of diabetic foot health, preventing small medical problems from becoming large and costly ones.

Marett said in-home monitoring “saves on significant healthcare costs of diabetic foot ulcers, which may ultimately lead to amputation.”

The company’s name reflects its core expertise: Monitor, Report, Respond, Remediate. As a business-to-business (B2B) biotechnology company, MR3 Health works closely with healthcare providers. Its TempTouch dermal thermometer, which is now an integral part of MR3’s health monitoring service, is both patented and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared.

“The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District recently released figures indicating that Bexar [County] has the highest rate for amputations of any of Texas’ 254 counties,” Marett said. “Our focus is on providing a daily monitoring service, using our own proprietary tool to deliver the service. We have added the technical components to make our service a serious player in the burgeoning tele-health industry.”

The company recently completed a study on patient compliance with positive results that has led to a larger compliance study with the pending publication of results. Patients enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan may be able to receive the service at no cost.

“We are currently raising funds for an expanded sales campaign in the fall,” Marett said. “We are expanding capacity to take care of more patients, as well as planning additional services using our in-home platform.”

McClendon has been using MR3 Health’s foot sensor for almost a year now.

“It’s simple to use and doesn’t take any time hardly,” she said. “I don’t want to go through all that again with taking care of a foot wound for almost a year like the last time.”

Iris Gonzalez writes about technology, life science and veteran affairs.